Carter-Williams' leeway with Sixers paying off

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Carter-Williams' leeway with Sixers paying off

The Sixers are just 15 games into the 82-game season, but some things are clearly taking shape, starting with a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.

Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and three steals in 36.2 minutes a night.

All of those numbers lead their respective categories among rookies.

There is only one other rookie averaging double-figure points, and that's Orlando’s Victor Oladipo (12.7). Only eight first-year players average at least 20 minutes.

Carter-Williams is on the fast track to being the first Sixers rookie since Allen Iverson to be named Rookie of the Year. Since Iverson won the award in the 1996-97 season, the lowest selected player in the draft to earn Rookie of the Year was Amar'e Stoudemire, whom the Suns drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 draft.

Carter-Williams came to the Sixers last June at pick No. 11.

“I think there is nothing like opportunity. Let’s start there,” Brett Brown said of Carter-Williams' early success. “He is getting big minutes. He has a green light and a freedom to play and at times make mistakes, and I think that counts for a lot.

“But once he has had that situation, his talent and his skill level is far greater than I imagined. The thing that I still stand by is there is a toughness and a leadership emerging in him that he projects out, and I get excited. He has a far greater intellect as a point guard than I also would have guessed.”

“I came to a great situation,” Carter-Williams said. “I was fortunate and lucky to play and have an opportunity. That is a big part of it, but you also have to perform.”

One could argue that Carter-Williams is putting up All-Star numbers. He and Chris Paul are the only two guards in the league averaging at least 15 points, 6.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game.

If you take away the rebounding category, there are 12 guards averaging a minimum of 15 points and 6.0 assists, but just four play in the Eastern Conference. In addition to MCW, the guards from the East include Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings and Kyrie Irving.

All-Star appearances seem to go hand-in-hand with paying dues, but it can happen for a rookie.

Carter-Williams has shown no lingering effects from the bruised arch he suffered in his left foot that sidelined him for four games. He declared the injury “completely fine.”

MCW feels he is getting the hang of the NBA, but like all players finds answering the bell on a consistent basis to be a work in progress.

“Maintaining every single day,” Carter-Williams said was the hardest adjustment from college to the pros. “Just going out there and performing every day whether it is at a practice or in a game.”

It is interesting to see the identity of the Sixers transforming with Brown pacing the sidelines and Carter-Williams running the on-court show.

Two years ago, their leading scorer, Lou Williams, came off the bench and averaged 14.9 points -- fewest among leading scorers on any NBA team.

Now the Sixers are one of three teams in the league that boast three players averaging 16.7 points or more with Carter-Williams, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.

Golden State has the scoring trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee, while Portland has LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews.

With the Warriors becoming a true threat out West and the Blazers riding an 11-game win streak, the Sixers hope their future is just as bright.

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

This week, I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses. If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don’t see it on here, don't worry, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

The Sixers should explore all possibilities: trade up, trade down, trade the pick, draft third. The draft is a little funky this year in that there is not a clear-cut choice between picks three through five, and perhaps beyond that. If the Sixers like either player, there is the possibility they could simply select that player No. 3.

I’ve said before, I could see Fox going third. The speedy point guard met with the Sixers at the draft combine and outlined how he would fit playing off the ball with Ben Simmons and finding opportunities with Joel Embiid. Is three a stretch for him? I don’t think so (more on why here).

Monk has not been projected as high as Fox, so the option of trading down for him is viable. If the Sixers draft for need, however, his skill set is a fit at three. Monk is their best option for a shooter, and they are lacking shooters. It's not uncommon for a prospect to jump in the draft order based on what the team at that selection is looking for. Of course, if the Sixers trade down, they could pick up another piece (future pick, etc.) in addition to Monk in the deal, which always is worth considering.

Ersan Ilyasova was a great veteran presence for the Sixers this season before they traded him to the Hawks at the deadline. He boosted their offense and, more importantly, helped in Dario Saric’s development.

The Sixers and Ilyasova had different plans for the future, though, and understandably so. Ilyasova, who turned 30 this month, was going to be looking for a longer-term contract this offseason than the Sixers were interested in offering. Ilyasova wanted commitment and security at this point in his career; the Sixers wanted flexibility with their options in the frontcourt.

Ilyasova has put together a résumé that will attract teams in free agency this summer.

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

De'Aaron Fox
Position: PG
School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3
Weight: 170 pounds
Wingspan: 6-6½

The case for Fox
With maybe the deepest point guard class in recent draft history, Fox has been flying up draft boards in the past month while still staying relatively under the radar when compared with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball — the expected top two picks in some order. He is electric on offense, and the Wildcats' guard posted double-figure points in all but four games during his lone collegiate season.

Against UCLA in the Sweet 16, Fox scored a career-high 39 and added four dimes. But perhaps more impressively, he shut down Ball, holding his 6-foot-6 counterpart to just 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting and one trey. And it wasn't just a one-time thing — two nights later, Fox held North Carolina guard Joel Berry II to just 11 points.

Although the Sixers have repeatedly said Ben Simmons will be their starting point guard at the beginning of next season (assuming the young star has no other setbacks), they will need someone to defend against opponents' quicker guards. With T.J. McConnell as the only true ballhandler currently on the roster, Fox certainly would be able to help spell Simmons at the point as well.

When experts began putting together their mock draft boards at the end of the college basketball season, Fox was frequently listed as a back-end lottery selection. Now, many have him as a potential top-five pick, and it's hard to see Fox slipping much past the Kings at No. 5 as Sacramento is a rebuilding team still in search of a point guard of their own.

The case against Fox
The biggest knock on Fox is his size. On Kentucky's website, he is listed at 187 pounds. But at the NBA draft combine, he measured in 17 pounds lighter. For scouts already concerned with his thin frame, this did little to reassure them that Fox will be able to hang with bigger guards at the next level — but maybe he fits as a complement to the 6-foot-11 Simmons.

Another worry is his three-point shooting. For the season, Fox shot just 24.9 percent from beyond the arc, attempting just fewer than two three-pointers per game. As a team in 2016-17, the Sixers took the seventh-most triples but ranked 25th out of 30 NBA teams from distance at 34 percent. With the Sixers in desperate need of consistent outside shooting, Fox would need to significantly improve that area of his game at the next level to help Brett Brown's team take the next step.

And, of course, as with most young ballhandlers (Fox is just 19), he has rough spots when leading the offense. Yes, Fox helped Kentucky to its fair share of highlight-reel alley-oops, yet he still struggled to command the Wildcats' offense at times and would occasionally get lost in pick-and-roll defense. Although his 5.8 assists per 40 minutes are a sign that he can eventually grow into the point guard that the Sixers need him to be, they could also use Fox to be an immediate impact player for a team that is finally trying to put all the pieces together.

Analysis
If the Sixers do in fact miss out on Fultz and Ball, Fox would certainly be a good consolation prize. He is incredibly quick with the ball in his hands and has the potential to improve defensively. In fact, our Amy Fadool lauded him as one of the most improved players in all of college basketball last season — he shot almost 48 percent from the field in Kentucky's final 14 games of the season.

There is no one on the Sixers' roster, as it stands, with a skill set comparable to Fox's, but it's still fair to question how he will handle some of the bigger and stronger point guards in the Eastern Conference, such as Kyrie Irving and John Wall, on both ends of the floor. With plenty of young budding talent in the fold, though, if Fox can immediately step in as a plus defender and a steady reserve ballhandler, he could definitely help the Sixers' core of Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric become even more lethal offensively.

A couple of weeks ago, I definitely viewed Fox as a stretch at No. 3. The more I think about it, however, he would not be an unreasonable selection for the Sixers. Yes, they also would likely have the option of Kansas' Josh Jackson or Duke's Jayson Tatum, as well as Fox's former teammate, Malik Monk, when they go on the clock, but Fox could fill a critical need. 

If the Sixers were somehow able to get the Kings to trade up to No. 3, Fox would be a great pick at No. 5 overall. And if Fultz or Ball were somehow available at No. 3, the Sixers would be hard-pressed to pass on either. Still, with so many talented point guards in this year's class, Fox is very much a worthy first-round candidate.